Wednesday, May 21, 2008

NARF AND ACLU Ask Federal Court To Stop Disenfranchisement of Alaska Natives Who Need Language Assistance

Government Continues To Violate Voting Rights Act, Groups Charge

ANCHORAGE — On behalf of four Alaska Natives and four tribal governments, the Native American Rights Fund (NARF) and the American Civil Liberties Union filed a motion in federal court today ordering state and local elections officials to provide effective oral language assistance and voting materials to citizens who speak Yup’ik, the primary language of a majority of voters in the Bethel region of Alaska. The motion comes in a lawsuit filed in 2007 charging state and local elections officials with ongoing violations of the federal Voting Rights Act.

“The state of Alaska and city of Bethel continue to violate the Voting Rights Act by blocking Alaska Natives from participating in the democratic process,” said NARF attorney Natalie Landreth, who is lead co-counsel in the case. “Election officials expect Yup’ik voters to understand translations which are incomprehensible, inaccurate, confusing, and cause them to vote the wrong way. Under federal law, state and local elections officials must provide oral language assistance in Yup’ik and ballots and other voting materials translated into Yup’ik an obligation with which they have never complied.”

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See Additional Media Coverage:
Yup'ik voters want help at polls, Anchorage Daily News
Election officials roll out programs for Native speakers, NBC Affiliate KTUU
Bethel area residents ask for elections assistance in Yup'ik, Seattle Post Intelligencer